The Pathway to Safe Movement Habits

The Four Essential Elements For Manual Handling Training Success.

There are many contributors to musculoskeletal disorders and manual handling injuries. The main aim of manual handling training is to improve how employees move and give them the skills needed to establish safe movement habits. The outcome is to reduce employees risk of injury while undertaking manual handling activities.

Changing any habit is not a quick fix process. It requires specific training techniques that engage workers to want to change. There must be buy-in at all levels of management.

In this manual handling guidance article, we share 4 essential elements needed for manual handling training to be successful in the workplace. This framework will help your organisation to reap the rewards of reduced musculoskeletal injuries.

1. The right knowledge (understanding)

To start the learning process, participants need the correct knowledge on how to use their bodies safely when doing manual handling activities. By learning the ‘Safe Move Principles’, participants gain an understanding of why certain movements are safer than others, which makes the various application of these movements make sense.

For example, they need to understand:

  • How to move with balance when they are bending and reaching
  • To breathe out for power when they are doing heavy work
  • How to use their hands and shoulders when pushing and pulling to protect their body and increase strength
  • How to use their hands correctly when gripping knives and tools.

Without the correct information, there is no basis for safe movement. The information needs to be in simple language and relate easily to common manual handling activities they are doing at work and out of work.

2. The right learning process (learning by doing and comparing)

Meeting the objectives of changing people’s movement habits isn’t as easy as just imparting the correct information. The process of how this knowledge is presented is vital. This needs to be done in a way that enables participant’s to feel the difference between a safe movement habit and an unsafe movement habit. This provides them with guidance for assessing whether they are performing the correct movements, so they can self correct going forwards.

For example:

  • How does it feel on their body when they use their shoulders and hands to push in a way that gives them power and protects their back, neck and shoulders - compared to using them in a way that causes tension and makes them weaker?
  • How does it feel when they have a safe habit of breathing out when lifting something heavy - compared to the unsafe habit of holding their breath?
  • How does it feel for them when they use their hand correctly when gripping a pipette in a laboratory - compared to using their hand incorrectly?

Kinaesthetic based learning enables participants to listen to their body, recognise its early warning signs and make safe movement choices.

3. Real-life application

The simple principles learnt need to be continually applied to the individual’s activities, during work and out of work. For example:

  • Pulling a pallet jack at work requires the same knowledge and safe techniques as pulling a trailer or pull starting a chainsaw.
  • Pushing a trolley requires the same knowledge and safe techniques as pushing a lawnmower.

Teaching participants to apply the principles at work and outside of work will improve the practice and embed permanent movement changes faster. This brings us to the next step in the process…

4. Practice - (Embedding new habits with practice)

Just knowing something is correct doesn’t make it a habit. If the safe habit isn’t practiced, people will go back to the existing unsafe habit. To benefit from habit changing training, businesses must put processes in place to encourage practice. This is a vital step.

Unless these 4 steps are followed and there’s an understanding of what it takes to create positive changes in your workers’ movement habits, there will be no long-lasting ROI on your manual handling training. This is a waste of time, and money.

If you need manual handling guidance, to work out the training requirements of your organisation, contact us for a free, no-obligation needs assessment. We work with some of Australasia’s largest companies to embed manual training programmes that get results. It would be our pleasure to support you in reducing the number of workplace injuries within your organisation.